PC, Linux

When scanning through the 60 games a day that release to Steam, a phrase I often instantly skip is “precision platformer”. Simply because I’m no good at them, and as such can’t really review them. But then every now and then the art, or the name, or just the vibes, make me investigate further. Which led me to clicking on Jailbreaker.

It is brilliant. I am having so much fun being bad, then good, at every level. This black-and-white platformer requires you jump around and avoid the many obstacles, in order to gather all the diamonds from a level, and then reach its exit door… except that only walls will stop you from perpetually running. Your little dude can jump, and then if the jump button is held down while in the air, spin horizontally for a short distance. Via all this, you parkour your way around, leaping over deadly cogs, somersault past rows of spikes, and make a series of perfect wall jumps to reach a distant door. And when you nail it, it feels godly.

The whole thing feels so involved that it was genuinely four or five levels in before I even noticed I was only using a single button to play. I know this makes me sound like an idiot, but honestly, the complexity required for achieving each level’s goal distracted me from noticing. I still sound like an idiot. But hopefully you get the idea: unlike so many single-button games, that simplicity of interaction is barely noticeable.

Movement here is so very satisfying. The jumps and spins feel utterly perfect, so failure always feels like your fault, not the game’s, and the lightning speed of the instant restarts means you are picoseconds away from another try. Levels that begin woefully difficult can become gymnasiums for demonstrating your precision talents, mostly because you’ve played them 284 times in the process of perfecting every jump. Or, if you’re not a cackhanded twerp like me, maybe finished straight away.

One of the excellent added complexities to movement is that the closer you are to a wall when you jump toward it, the further you slide up it (yes, this makes no sense, and the game owns it). Jump too soon and you won’t have the vertical lift you might need, but jump too late and you’ll crash into the wall and have to jump off it in the opposite direction. I fear explaining all this will put people off because it sounds too tricky, but it’s genuinely so instinctive that it just makes sense as you’re playing.

I’ve shouted out loud so many times while playing, sometimes in mad frustration at myself, other times in absolute delight at my success. I have even proclaimed, “I AM SO GOOD AT THIS!” immediately before leaping straight into the teeth of a spinning cog. It’s just an absolute pleasure to play, no matter how bad you might be at it.

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